Last minute shopping is my holiday tradition - so it was just yesterday that I was realizing the gift bag was missing some heft, as it didn't hold quite enough stuff for the missus.

So I hustles over to the gourmet cook store - she's quite the cook my missus - and I starts peering through the clearance section, thinking to make up in volume what my gifts will lack in careful aforethought.

I'm picking over the coffin-shaped cake pans left from Halloween and the turkey-shaped cookie cutters (dead giveaways that I wasn't buying for the proper season) when my head bangs into a raft of shaping rasps hanging from an overhead pot rack and I thinks - what are these woodshop tools doing amongst the cooking ladels and spring form pans?

These seemed very much ordinary rasps, but sported big colorful rubbery gripping handles and were labeled under a completely misleading name: zesters. But the connection gets clearer when I see the Microplane name on their shafts.

Turns out Microplane has gotten known to cooking aficionados since a Canadian housewife commandeered one of her husband’s woodshop rasps to grate orange peel into zest (technical cooking jargon) for an Armenian Orange cake. It's a huge success and her husband’s Microplane rasp morphed into a kitchen grater.

Microplane says its graters are good for cooking for the same reason they work well on wood: they use a patented chemical process to create ultra sharp cutting edges. Most food graters are stamped.

Researching this all I found out surgeons have also adopted Microplanes to hone down joints during hip replacements - which speaks to their precision in all uses.

In woodwork these cutting planes allow the wood to be shaved, not scraped like normal rasps and woodworking tools. That makes for smoother cuts and finish, even when cutting crossgrain. Another plus: the razor-sharp etched teeth also create tiny shavings instead of making sawdust.

Microplane says its tools are versatile, cutting  with equal facility hardwood, softwood, manufactured panel (plywood, Masonite, particleboard, oriented strand board, etc.).

And oranges, lemons and limes.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.